Retired from the University of Texas and too old to play soccer anymore. Now, in the twilight of his years, time is spent writing in this blog, hiking and exploring Texas Parks, photography, working out, gardening and tending to the five ponds he built .
I received a phone call today from a lady who was wanting to give away her turtle that had been her friend for many long years until in the end that although much love he received it was not fair she believed that the only thing in his life was a large glass tank and without a mate or even another turtle to spend time which would have made life much more sublime instead just him in his lonely life a perfect home for him with no strife a peaceful life to be sure but lonely with no company to endure and for twelve and a half years he lived in his tank when his caregiver called looking for a place that he could spend the rest of his days as nature intended in natural ways in a pond that he could swim and be free with other turtles for company she brought him over to take a look as I showed her around like an open book and even though it would be the very last game that she and Herbert for that was his name would spend together for in his new life Herbert could go and search for a wife she kissed his head and said so long and placed him on the bank of the pond where he slipped into the water and was gone but before he disappeared away he turned and looked as if to say thank you for the years that you cared and of the life that together we shared then slipped below the surface of the pond to explore his new home and he was gone I’m sure that Herbert and I will become friends although it has to be said that in the end I will not see Herbert an awful lot as with the others will be hard to spot unless he may bask in the sun on the bank of the pond where this new life begun and if Herbert was able to speak I’m sure his thanks to Alisa would be deep especially as she gave up her pet for the wild life of a turtle he will now get.
I was sitting at my work table looking out of the window and reminiscing about life in general and my life specifically. For the immediate future, with the Pond Tour out of the way, there is nothing major coming up on the horizon that I need to be worrying about at least, nothing that I know of. We all know how that can change in an instant especially if one is an animal lover and I have four dogs and over two hundred fish to look after. Hopefully though, Nature will be kind and not present me with any animal problems.
I did get in the big pond and spent a couple of hours trying to put the Cypress tree that was the subject of an earlier blog, into a bigger and deeper pot in an effort to stop it from blowing over. It is tall enough now that it is top heavy and with the little pot that contains the roots not being of a suitable weight to hold it secure, tends to blow over pretty frequently.
It was rather a comedy of errors as I tried to wrestle the tree out of the shallow pot but unfortunately, it would not budge. It is jammed in their very solidly and the only way is to literally cut the pot off. So, I gave up on that idea and decided to try to place the entire pot into the bigger pot. I had to weight the big pot down with rocks to keep it stable while I tried to wrastle the smaller pot into it. Remember, that this was taking place with all of us, me, the tree and the pot standing in the pond in three and a half feet of water. Nothing would keep still as the water made everything buoyant. First the new pot would float away and then after I recaptured it, the tree in the existing pot would slide off it’s block foundation and into the water requiring that I struggle it upright, once again. Even though everything was easy to move whilst in the water, when I tried to lift the tree out of the water and into the bigger pot, it suddenly became a hundred pounds heavier. After a couple of hours of total frustration, I gave up on the entire idea and placed the tree back onto it’s original set of blocks and tied it off. Talk about a waste of time. It really is a two person job and as there is only one of me….I will add an additional couple of tie-off’s to try to stabilize it.
There is still a lot of dead stuff that I raked into heaps that need to be put on the compost pile plus I really need to get into the shallow pond and cut down a lot of the growth that has happened there. I think that one reason the Heron has stayed away is because it cannot see the water in the pond it is so grown over. This has been an amazing year for overall growth. Everything and I mean everything has just grown without any limitations and I have spent more time cutting stuff back this year than ever before. The one frost that we had came early in November and we had a very mild winter making for lots of early growth and it has not slowed since. To add to the perfect storm effect, excuse the pun, we have had a lot of rain and have not had any abnormally high temperatures with the highest so far a mere ninety two degrees. That will change as eventually it will reach a hundred degrees, hopefully later rather than sooner.
At the moment it is raining and we are in the middle of some pretty heavy thunderstorms including hailstones. With any luck, there will not be too much wind and the tree will remain upright. Which brings me to the subject and title of this piece, “Time to start walking again”. I haven’t been out on a real walk for quite some time and I really need to get out there not only for the exercise but also to take pictures and have something to write about. You can probably guess by this blog, I am almost desperate for subject matter. I hope that I am not turning into one of those bloggers that writes two lines and adds a picture and calls it a blog. I certainly hope not.
The Austin Pond Society held their annual pond tour over the weekend of June 1-2 returning after missing out on having a tour last year, 2018. The size of the tour was also cut back to a more manageable number easily covered on each day, Saturday for the South Side of the Colorado River and Sunday for the north side.
The tour had a few of the spectacular favorites plus several new ponds which have never been on the tour before. All, regardless of the size, had something to offer in the way of beauty and in some cases, originality. One of the highlights included a nest of Yellow Crowned Night Herons complete with three babies that appeared to almost be ready to fly the roost. Ironic that one of the pond owners natural enemies could hold so much fascination when babies are involved.The night pond that has been on the tour several times before was just as spectacular as it has always been.
If you click on a picture, it will enlarge and you can use the side arrows to move along. Use the “escape” key to return to normal size.
I have put together two slideshows which takes about twenty minutes to view but is well worth it as it shows the spectacular beauty of ponds of different sizes and types and all of the accompanying work that has gone into the landscaping and plants and flowers that make up the whole garden. One pond even had three live donkeys which attracted as much attention as the ponds for the younger members on the tour.
All in all, the tour was a resounding success and even though smaller than previous tours, has probably set a new standard in both number of ponds and quality.
Following the last wind/rain storm that we had a couple of weeks ago, the Spruce tree that I have in the 6000 gallon pond blew over. This is not really that surprising as it stands about fifteen tall and it’s roots are in an eighteen inch diameter shallow container weighted down with a couple of heavy rocks. For those of you that are unaware, pots and such when placed in the water are very easy to move around as the water makes them feel lighter and more buoyant. With this top heavy tree and the weightlessness (almost) of its base, it doesn’t take a lot of wind for it to topple. Spruce trees in the wild have a very extensive shallow root system that spread out in all directions with a lot of those same roots above ground.
Yesterday, I resolved that I would make the effort to upright the tree. This required that I get into the pond along with the fish and the turtles. I kicked around whether to wear my waders or to strip down to a pair of shorts and chose the latter. Actually, the water was not a bit cold and as I had just finished moving and stacking the rocks to stop Sandy from digging her way out, was a very welcome way to cool down.
The tree uprighting went very well and I managed to swing it back into place and retie the supporting cords. I found the rocks that had fallen off when it went over and replaced them. I could feel as I walked around that the amount of leaves and debris was more than I should allow as when that stuff rots, it tends to give off methane and ammonia which are toxic to the fish. So, I figured that as I was already in the pond, why not go ahead and clean out as much of the junk that I could. At the same time, I was able to reach in the bog and clean it of some of the very abundant plants growing there.
By this time, I was really in the swing of things and after completing the 6000 gallon pond, I moved over to the 5000 gallon one that is just off the deck and proceeded to jump into it. As well as cleaning the muck out of the bottom, I needed to trim the Umbrella plant and take out other excessive growth. The urn that is in the middle of this pond had stopped working and I surmised that the hose had broke and needed to be replaced but when I turned it over, it was just totally blocked up. A few pushes with the drain cleaning snake and it was free and clear which was a pleasant surprise. I needed to rebuild the base as I wanted to put a shelf above the water line for the many turtles in the pond to have a place to sun themselves. I bought that urn thirty years ago and installed it on the very first pond that I built and subsequently moved it to the rebuild of that same pond later years.
There was a nest of fire ants at the exact spot that I used to get in and out and they managed to bite me a few times even when I was in the water. Nasty little buggers, fire ants. I don’t like them one little bit. I finally finished all of work inside these two ponds. I didn’t realize how sore I was with all of the exertion until I jumped in the hot tub.
I need to get in the shallow pond and clean it out and cut back all of the growth as I can hardly see the water. I haven’t seen anything of out friendly Heron but that is probably that he can’t even see the fish it is so grown over. That and the two Scarecrows. This is the pond that the two Brown Snakes do all of their fishing so it will be interesting when that time comes. I also spotted a Whip Snake yesterday so we may have at least three of them living here. Probably wear the waders for this one…
Footnote. We had very heavy winds overnight and needless to say, the tree has blown over again. Oh well….
For those of you that follow my blog know that I have recently adopted a new little girl who is a Maltese mix to fill the void left by the death of Gizmo. Her name is Sandy for her coloring which is mostly white with sandy colors mixed in. I adopted her knowing that she needed to be treated for heart-worm which we have been undergoing for the past couple of months with several more months to go.
She really is a very sweet little girl although somewhat demanding just as most females are. It is easier to cater to the demands of a little dog rather than a full grown person of the opposite sex. That’s why I have dogs. She gets along very well with the other three dogs even Ginnie who is the only one remaining from the original pack and can be a bit of a snot. She really likes Mikey who is super full of energy and himself very demanding for attention. As for Buddy, the other recent adoptee, he just goes about his business wandering around the garden or spending his time asleep. Buddy is very deaf and does not see too well either which makes him a bit of a slow mover.
When Richie was around, he was a really inquisitive dog always exploring in the oddest of places including the woods at the back of my house. He did this by digging out under the fence resulting in my scrambling over this 6 feet high wooden fence in order to get him back. At the time, the neighbor had a mean donkey that had the run of these woods and she had warned me that it was a killer of small animals so you can imagine how quickly I was after Richie. He came back after taking one look at the donkey and I quickly blocked up the hole he had dug. I then ran an electric fence all the way around the entire fence line really close to the ground to deter Richie from future explorations of the great outdoors beyond the fence line. He must have hit it at least once as he never again tried to dig his way out.
That was several years ago and the fence worked well. Richie joined the other dogs of my life in that great outdoors up in the sky after getting bit by a rattlesnake about 3 years ago. I kinda let the electric fence go a bit as none of the other dogs had any inclination to dig their way out being content with their lot within the confines of their own back yard. It hurts my feelings when they try to get out like that as I give them the best care and all of the love that I have. But, dogs are dogs and probably retain some of their wild instincts even after all of the thousands of years of domestication.
That is, until Sandy came along. I had no idea she was a digger until I happened to glance out of the kitchen window after coming in to get a drink and there she was, tail erect and trotting down the driveway towards the very busy road. I did a double take and tore out the door leaving the faucet running in my haste. I opened the back gate having enough sense to close it to keep the other dogs in and trundled off down the driveway after the dog. I can’t remember the last time I broke into a trot other than a fast walk but run I did even at eighty three. In the meantime, Sandy was heading back as the traffic on the road was enough to frighten her forcing her in the same direction from which she had come. I called her and she immediately came back to me and I was so relieved to get to her unhurt that I forgot to scold her for digging out.
I checked the yard and sure enough, in the area that the famous Murmuring Creek, which runs through the bottom of my yard, was a hole dug neatly under the electric fence which I should mention, was not working. The hole was big enough for a little dog to squeeze out. This creek only flows when we get a gully washer as it is located on the low spot of the land and all of the water for several hundred yard around finds its way across my yard and then my neighbors yard and on. Plus there is a twenty four inch culvert that runs under the road and empties directly outside of my fence line. The end result of all of this water is Murmuring Creek.
I grabbed my shovel and filled in the hole and reinforced the rest of that part of the fence line with extra dirt and then went to work on getting the electric fence operable again. This took me several hours and after getting zapped a couple of times myself through my own carelessness, decided that the fence was working properly. I had to check the wire in the creek area making sure it was not grounding out and was unbroken. Satisfied, I turned to go back up the garden and when all of a sudden, Sandy screamed in pain and I immediately rushed over fearing that she had gotten bit by a rattler. In fact, what she had done was touch the electric wire with her nose and quite obviously, it was working just fine. She ran back to the house crying all of the way. I hated that she had to get shocked but at the same time, she learned a valuable lesson that might keep her alive.
She comes down with me to the bottom of the garden but steers clear of the fence line. I still worry that she may get brave enough to try it again so I stacked rocks across the spot where the water flows under the fence allowing the water to flow through on the odd occasions when we get the gully washer but enough to where she cannot dig her way out. If we get a big enough wash, I will need to replace it as the dirt will get washed away.
I had this long conversation with her about how much she means to us as a family and that she needs to be careful but I don’t think that it sank in. She just looked at me with her big brown eyes and demanded more attention. Oh yes, I am no worse for wear after breaking into a stumbling run but I don’t think I will take it up as a form of exercise in the future. I also had one other stroke of luck as I was walking back to the house when lo and behold, the very large Turtle that lives in one of the ponds was walking down the path towards me. I scooped him up and put him back hoping that he will stay there. That with the luck of looking out of the kitchen window at exactly the right time was enough to make me jump in my truck and buy a lottery ticket. You never know as things do come in threes and I could use a couple of million dollars.
It’s been raining at my house for a few days preventing me from going out to play and any work around the ponds has to be done with a raincoat on and even after the rain has stopped everything has turned to slop and being outside is just not fun as the dripping trees continue to run I’ve spent time indoors sitting around not wasting it as I have found that time on the website that I maintain is put to good use as I make it the same as I picture exactly what I want it to be and then write the code so that others can see the pictures and words of upcoming things they can see for themselves my offerings in an attempt to show them what is in store including the fabulous Austin Pond Tour with fifteen ponds spread over two days all different kinds and so many ways to make a back yard a beautiful thing so that others can see and their praises will sing not knowing the time and the effort it takes to turn it into a beautiful place the rain has stopped and I venture outside to look at my ponds that Nature does hide from view as I sit writing these words with growth so thick that even the birds have trouble in finding the seeds that I spread as I welcome their presence and they’re not underfed birds of all colors some big and some small jostling to get to their share of it all the yard I have is a beautiful place everything so green filling a space in between the ponds of which there are four filled with Goldfish and Koi and plants galore with pathways between leading around and around until back at the start you can be found ready to do it over again to see what you missed as its never the same to maintain the ponds is a lot of work which in the past I did not shirk but as I now am eighty three the work is catching up with me and I’m no longer sure for how long I can last as I do not work like in the past and things are much harder than before as old age is knocking at my door and with it the loss of strength that I had especially when I was a much younger lad and what I will need to do is close down the ponds before I am through and still have the strength to perform this task just a few more years is all I ask as I live out my remaining days just me and the dogs very set in our ways.
The view out of the back window looking towards Zilker Park and the City of Austin.
With frightening regularity, the calendar once more moved to the third Monday of the month bringing with it, the Austin Pond Societies Monthly Meeting held as usual in the Zilker Botanical Gardens Clubhouse. This meeting was our Annual Plant Swap when our members bring in their surplus plants both of the garden and pond variety. The one stipulation is that if by chance, anything you bring in is not taken by another eager Ponder or Gardener, then it must return home with the original owner. That turned out not to be the case this time around as the offerings were pretty slim compared to previous plant swap meetings which is surprising considering that this was our best attended meeting of the year with about forty members showing up.
Along with the Swap and at the same time, Darren Bayhi was holding a re-potting seminar for anyone interested in “How to re-pot Lilies” which included both Tropical, Hardies and also Lotus.. As the swap was drawing to a close, more and more people stopped by Darren’s table to ask questions and watch his demonstration.
Prior to the swap, many members had volunteered to help set up the tables and kiddie pools used for this event. For this, they were given the opportunity of having first dibs at whatever took their fancy before the main body was let loose. With the small number of plants on offer, this was a good decision on their part.
Prior to the actual swap and following a meal of hot dogs with all of the fixin’s topped off by various deserts brought in by the members, Barb Lenhardt, President, had some business to offer which included a discussion by Ted Paone, who talked about the upcoming Tour with the membership. He outlined the Charities that will benefit which includes Central Texas Gardner on KLRU-TV, Austin Pets Alive, and Donor Choice, a charity which funds projects for teachers and students. Prior to his presentation, Ted was awarded the Koi Person of the Year Award voted on by the Members present for his efforts with the Pond Tours.
Ted was followed by Mike Peppers, our new Treasurer who outlined the budget for the Members along with many apologies for the lateness of the report. With the budget voted on and passed by the Membership and there not being anymore business, it was time to get on with the important event of the day which of course, was the Plant Swap.
Following the aforementioned reward for volunteering, they were allowed out the door first followed after a few minutes by the rest of the Members. The plants were taken in record time and the clean up started by those same volunteers who we thank for their efforts.
The next meeting will be on May 20th. The Speaker will be Katie Boyer of the US Fish and Wildlife and she will be talking about Monarch Butterflies. As these are another of Nature’s species that are in trouble due to man’s incompetence in managing the Planet, then it would be well worth our while to see what we can do to help save this species.
Stories about family, faith, friends and funnies. Pull up a chair. Grab a cup of coffee and laugh, cry, ponder and inspire about ordinary events of this wonderful, ever changing, bubbling pot that we call "every day life".